After a warmer-than-average summer, most of the nation will be experiencing a warmer-than-average winter, while what the Mid-Atlantic sees should be very familiar. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Pennsylvania can look forward to a seasonably cold winter that will be nothing drastic but plenty of snow. After a slow start in December, an average Mid-Atlantic winter will bring familiar cold, rain, and snow.

dog playing in the snow

With that in mind, now is the time to plan how to protect your pets for the winter months. Inside or outside pets both require a little foresight to protect them from potentially harsh weather. They can’t tell you when they’re suffering, so it’s up to their humans to think ahead. A little planning and a little extra care will ensure an enjoyable winter for everyone, four legs and two.

If you’re having trouble managing your schedule and keeping your pets safe at the same time, know that Greenlin Pet Resorts is here to be their home away from home. We have climate-controlled indoor facilities available for stays and play all year long. Our knowledgeable, trained staff can supervise any outdoor time to minimize the risk of cold weather injuries to your precious fuzzy family member. Take a look at our pet boarding and dog daycare options for any time you can’t be there for them and don’t want to leave them out in the cold. With five pet boarding locations in the central Pennsylvania area, we’re here for you and your pet.

Keep Them Inside, and Keep Them Dry

An obvious suggestion, perhaps, but if your dog or cat is primarily an inside pet, keep them inside. That’s what they’re used to, after all, and too much inclement weather could be a shock to their system. Cats and dogs are just as susceptible to cold weather hazards as you are, and the same things that keep you safe keep them safe. 

When you have to take your dog out for their daily walk, remember that the weather will likely be wetter than usual. During walks, a dog’s paws can pick up all sorts of dangerous particles, such as salt for sidewalks and chemical de-icing agents. After your walk, wipe their paws dry and make sure their undercarriages are dry if it’s snowy out.

When you go on walks, try to make sure it’s in the day time and keep them away from frozen rivers or ponds. Broken ice can be as deadly as them as they are to you.

Just as a hot car is dangerous in the summer, a cold car can be equally dangerous in the winter. Keep pets at home unless you absolutely have to bring them on a trip. Never leave them unattended in a vehicle. 

Give Them A Warm Place To Stay and Plenty To Eat

Ideally, all pets should be indoor pets, but that’s not always possible. Some dogs are too big for small living spaces or are working dogs, such as watchdogs. Furthermore, some neighborhoods have many stray or feral cats that kind-hearted people take care of. Other cats simply prefer venturing outside. For the most part, any pet that spends most of their time outdoors will be fine in weather that is dry and above freezing, but be sure to bring them inside or at least provide adequate warm, dry shelter during snows and nights when the mercury drops.

A concerned human who wants to provide outside pets with safety has some steps they can take. Both dogs and cats benefit from a well-made, secure shelter, and many pet stores have several good options. Some basic rules of thumb, though, are important to remember. Make sure the shelter is secure and closed in on three sides. Give them a large enough opening space and some sort of plastic flap that will seal it away from the winter. Place the shelter in an area shielded from winds, and make sure it’s high enough off the ground to keep out the snow or rain. Provide plenty of some sort of warm bedding for the inside, such as straw. Consider adding insulation to the walls. Reflective foam insulation works great in a pinch, and it can be procured cheaply from any home improvement store. When insulating, avoid anything that might soak up moisture, like towels or blankets. Surprisingly, straw works best because it deters pests while avoiding moisture absorption. Just be sure to change it out regularly.

If you leave food out for neighborhood cats, dry food is fine, but wet food is easier to digest and absorb. Just keep an eye out for the wet food freezing! If you can use heated bowls, do so. And make sure the bowls are deep rather than wide. Also, place them in the sun and out of the wind, if possible. Both cats and dogs benefit from a little more food during the winter months, as keeping warm in the cold take more energy. 

Other Things to Remember

There are a number of other little odds and ends that don’t fit into a specific category but are vitally important. 

  • Before driving anywhere, check your car to make sure a cat hasn’t curled up in the engine or taken shelter in the wheel well. Banging on your hood before starting your car can help save a cat’s life, be it your cat or one that lives in the neighborhood!
  • Besides being adorable, pet clothes help animals stay warm and dry. 
  • More dogs are lost during the winter than at any other time of the year, so keep them leashed when you’re out and about.
  • While washing your cat can be a very painful idea, it’s a good idea to give your dog a bath from time to time. However, avoid giving too many baths during cold spells, as it could cause their skin to dry out. 
  • On that same note, keep your house from getting too dry with a humidifier to keep their skin and coats properly moisturized. 
  • Let animals keep their long coats, and save the haircuts for warmer times. For animals with mats, cut the matt out rather than shaving the whole coat.

One of the most important things to remember is winter months often call for the use of substances that are extremely harmful to pets. Antifreeze has a sweet taste to it, and both dogs and cats are prone to lick it. In fact, some people will intentionally drench meat with antifreeze to “remove” stray cats or dogs. 

On that same note, salt and other de-icers get stuck to paws, and there are pet-friendly alternatives. Massage their pays with petroleum jelly, and consider booties for the feet to keep them from licking off the toxic substances.

Keep Safe, and Have Fun

Inclement weather is no reason to stay away from winter fun. Both cats and dogs love to romp in the snow, but make sure both are properly dried off when playtime is over. 

Keep in mind that planning for bad weather and power outages should include plans for your pets. Make sure you have the supplies you need packed and ready to go should the power goes out, and the weather takes a nasty turn. Include enough food, water, and medications for at least five days. And if you have to leave home for any length of time for any amount of time, consider boarding your cat or dog at your nearest Greenlin Pet Resort. We’ll keep them warm, safe, and happy until you can get them home once again.